Tucker Carlson’s disparaging private messages about Trump contradict his pro-Trump comments on the air

tucker carlson and donald trump
Molly Butler / Media Matters

Newly released files in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News reveal Tucker Carlson’s contempt toward former President Donald Trump and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election; at one point the host wrote in a text message: “I hate him passionately.”  

But while Carlson was attacking Trump and his handling of the election results behind the scenes, on his prime-time show Tucker Carlson Tonight he was encouraging 2020 election denialism, peddling conspiracy theories about the results, and defending January 6 insurrectionists from the “domestic terrorism” label.

Recently released documents from the lawsuit include private correspondence in which Carlson offered stinging commentary about the Trump administration and the former president’s handling of the 2020 election results. He said that “there isn’t really an upside to Trump” and said Trump is “only good at destroying." Carlson also stated that Trump’s decision not to attend President Joe Biden’s inauguration was “destructive” and “disgusting,” and he admitted that former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, who championed election conspiracy theories, “is lying.” On January 4, 2021, two days before the Capitol riot, Carlson texted an unidentified person, saying, “We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights.”

Here’s a sample of the narratives the Fox host pushed to his audience during the general time frame he was sending those texts:

  • On November 2, 2020, the day before the presidential election, Carlson praised Trump for being “a living indictment of the people who run this country. That was true four years ago, when Trump came out of nowhere to win the presidency, and it’s every bit as true right now, maybe even more true than it's ever been, and it will remain true regardless of whether Donald Trump wins reelection.” 
  • While cautioning against “hasty calls” for a Biden win, Carlson questioned, “How many of the 69 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump this week would believe that and accept it? At this point, not very many, not that anyone cares.” He later asserted, “If you cared about the country and its future, you wouldn't force Donald Trump voters to believe this. … Instead, you would show them.” 
  • During his January 7, 2021, show the day following the attack on the Capitol, Carlson attempted to shield Trump from criticism, claiming, “Within minutes of all of this, virtually every powerful person in the country erupted in rage at Donald Trump. Business leaders demanded that Trump be removed from office immediately under the 25th Amendment. Members of Congress clamored to impeach Donald Trump. At least one Democrat suggested anyone in Congress who supported Donald Trump’s claims of election fraud must be expelled. Meanwhile, the media set about denouncing Donald Trump as a terrorist and a murderer, etc. We could go on.” 
  • Later in that same monologue, Carlson complained about attention cast toward Trump after the violence he incited at the Capitol, claiming that the country has become “a sweaty chat room of 300 million people all of whom are simultaneously focused with monomaniacal intensity on a single man, Donald Trump. That is not healthy no matter how you feel about Trump.” Carlson also said -- “We’re not attacking him, very few media outlets have been more supportive of Donald Trump’s 2016 agenda than this show has been. We agree with his ideas then; we agree with them now. But at some point you've got to wonder about where our country is putting all of its energy.” 
  • During the same show, as Popular Information’s Judd Legum noted, Carlson “trashed people who harbored ‘hatred’ of Trump, saying they were ‘socially anxious white professionals’ who loathe the working-class”: 

It is not just Republican leaders who feel this way, it's our entire leadership class. It is everyone in charge. You rarely hear it spoken out loud, but this is the truth: a very specific form of intra-white loathing at the core of the reaction to Donald Trump. 

Here is what it is: nothing is more repulsive to socially anxious white professionals than working class people who look like them. Proles are their single greatest fear; they remind them of where they may have come from, or where they could be going if things turn south. 

So, if you want to understand the hatred, the real hatred, not just disagreement, but gut-level loathing and fear of Trump, in say, New York or Washington or LA, you've got to understand that first.

  • Carlson continued to blame “the people with the most power” for the January 6 riot, arguing on January 18, 2021, that they are “pushing us to a place where something awful is absolutely inevitable. I don't understand how we get out of this before something terrible happens and probably a lot of people to blame for that.”